Ramaphosa: We're sorry - and we'll do better
President Cyril Ramaphosa has conceded that the government's handling of some lockdown regulations has been shoddy, reassuring South Africans that he'll make amends.
Over the past 48 days of lockdown, the government has often had to haphazardly pen regulations, which have at times been poorly communicated and implemented by government and security forces.
"Some of the actions we have taken have been unclear, some have been contradictory and some have been poorly explained. Implementation has sometimes been slow and enforcement has sometimes been inconsistent and too harsh," the president said on Wednesday in his first address to the nation since April 23.
"This evening, I want to reaffirm my commitment and the commitment of the government I lead to take whatever action is necessary to safeguard the life, the dignity and the interests of the South African people."
President Cyril Ramaphosa gave the country an update on the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic from the Union Buildings in Pretoria on May 13 2020. In his address, the president discussed the country’s screening and testing numbers and cautioned against easing the nationwide lockdown too soon.
The government’s mishaps have resulted in a series of legal challenges in which it has been forced to answer for an about-turn on the lifting of a cigarette ban, the legality of the authority of the national command council on Covid-19, and the killing of Collins Khosa allegedly at the hands of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
"We are determined and committed to ensure that all government decisions are taken in good faith, that they are reasonable and based on empirical evidence, and that they do not cause more harm than good," said Ramaphosa.
He said the government was also committed to being "transparent, to take the nation into confidence and to do so regularly, to continue to be forthright on the state of the pandemic".
"You want to know when things are bad, and be told when they could get worse," he said.
He promised that the government would engage and consult, "to ensure that we continue to mobilise every resource at our disposal to support the most vulnerable, to give the greatest support to those most in need, and to make sure that the funds that are dedicated to our coronavirus response are not wasted and are not stolen".
"Above all, I pledge once again to ensure that your rights are respected and upheld, especially by those who have been entrusted with this responsibility," he said.
Police watchdog Ipid told parliament last week that 828 complaints had been laid with the institution between March 26 and May 5. The bulk of the complaints had to do with allegations of assault at the hands of police.
"As your president, as this government, we are firmly committed to meeting the expectations you rightly have of us. Where we have disappointed, we will continue to make amends. Where we make mistakes, we will continue to correct them," said Ramaphosa.
"Our collective struggles over the past months have taught us much about ourselves and about each other. We have also learnt a lot about this virus. Although there may have been differences and disagreements, there has also been kindness, empathy and compassion. There has been courage and solidarity."